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Residents Ponder Water — and Water Bills — at Forum

San Juan Capistrano city officials host an event to educate and elicit feedback.

San Juan Capistrano residents learn about water and their water bill at a forum Tuesday. Patch photo credit: Penny Arévalo
San Juan Capistrano residents learn about water and their water bill at a forum Tuesday. Patch photo credit: Penny Arévalo

Residents in San Juan Capistrano got a chance to learn about water and their water bills – and give feedback to city officials Tuesday.

The city-sponsored water forum at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center was set up like an expo, with different stations to learn about water, the groundwater recovery plant, how to read the bill, how the city’s rates compare with neighbors and more.

Some of the more animated conversation – sometimes appearing outwardly frustrating – was at the table where residents could discuss their bills.

“The city staff just told us, ‘We know there’s a problem but we can’t fix it,’” said Mamie Yong Maywhort. “What’s the deal with that? What good are you if you know there’s a problem? Help the constituents.”

Maywhort’s beef was with the inconsistency of meter reading, causing her water bills’ amount due to undulate.

City customer service employee Stacie Sheek responded: “You feel the system’s broken. I don’t feel the system is broken.”

Meanwhile, resident Dave Solt said he supports the city’s efforts to tap into local groundwater.

“I think the groundwater recovery plant is a forward-looking project,” he said. “One only has to look at the Metropolitan Water District and its message to all the cities: 1) Your rates are only going up and up and up and, 2) We’re going to give you less water.”

Residents also had a chance to fill out a short survey as part of a new study to look at water rates.  The survey is among the photos above of some of the displays. Chief Financial Officer Cindy Russell said readers can print it out, fill it out, then send it into the city or drop it off.

Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 12:28 AM
Don Juan, show me where I support class action suits. As for the conditional use permits go, I said follow the law, unlike what Sam Allevato does when he continues to illegally bill us for water and tramples on the First Amendment when he votes for banning an adversarial newspaper. Richard skewed the billing examples. Show me what someone pays on tier 3 and 4 in other cities compared to SJC. www.RecallSam.com
Don_SJC December 18, 2013 at 12:39 AM
Sunshine, are you against the $30 million dollar lawsuit filed by the Newport Beach class action attorneys which piggybacks off of the arguments made in the CTA suit?
Don_SJC December 18, 2013 at 12:47 AM
Richard already showed you what heavy water users pay in other cities and guess what, SJC wasn't the highest. You say that's skewed, prove it. Allow me to repeat my questions which have gone unanswered, Sunshine are you in the CCS leadership or did you just come-up with 'Tuttle Click" all on your own? If other communities in our area have higher water bills, how can their higher billing be legal while SJC's lower billing is illegal?
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 12:55 AM
Don Juan, I am against Sam Allevato who caused us to be over charged in the first place. What do you think about Sam continuing to bill us illegally? What do you think of Sam basically spitting in the face of the judge who ruled against him and his cronies in the city by continuing to over bill us illegally? What do you think of Sam using our tax dollars to pay for two attorneys to appeal the judge's ruling which was in favor of the residents and not Sam's illegal billing system? What do you think of Sam trampling on the First Amendment by secretly banning in closed rooms an adversarial newspaper? www.RecallSam.com
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 12:58 AM
I came up with Tuttle Click all on my own, dear. I've lived in SJC since 1999. I know enough history around here to know who the crooks are.
Don_SJC December 18, 2013 at 12:59 AM
Sunshine, I think banning the newspapers from City Hall was a stupid move and wrong. So there you go. I directly answered one of your questions. Now answer mine, are you in the CCS leadership?
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 01:11 AM
Don Juan, do I have to be in a "leadership" position to be pissed about what's going on in this city and my outrageous illegal water bills?? I don't think so. I'm not power hungry like Sam. What are he and his rich development friends hiding? Why are they pouring thousands of dollars into stopping the recall? I smell something rotten in the state of Denmark, just like it smelled in Bell. Are you in bed with Sam and his outlaws, including the Rancho Mission Viejo Development Company? Because it sounds like you sure don't care about the illegal actions of Sam et al. and how they are screwing SJC. I'd rather be on the side of the residents than Sam and his rich buddies. www.Recall Sam.com
Don_SJC December 18, 2013 at 01:20 AM
Sunshine, you evade every question I ask. Let me show you how to give a direct answer; No, I am not in anyway associated with Sam, "his outlaws" or the Rancho Mission Viejo Development Company. I distrust groups that try to manipulate the electorate with hidden agendas. If you are with CCS then just say it ... frankly your obvious evasion has already said it more loudly than you ever could.
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 01:37 AM
I am not in any CCS leadership position. Period. You are not "associated" with Sam, but what do you feel about his actions I mentioned?
Don_SJC December 18, 2013 at 01:54 AM
How do you feel about the lawsuit filed by the Newport Beach class action attorneys?
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 02:05 AM
I can see why the guy filed it. Sam and his buddies need to be stopped from continuing to rob the residents they are supposed to be protecting. I guess this guy thought it was going to take a lawsuit to get justice. How do you feel about Sam illegally over charging us since 2010?
Donna Fleming December 18, 2013 at 02:17 AM
Sunshine.. I feel angry. I am liivid over the abuse of small town government. Control is what Sam wants. He does not care about the laws. He thinks he is exempt from the law. I didn't like those closed door meetings 6 years ago, and I like them less now.
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 02:19 AM
I'm angry, too, Donna.
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 03:12 AM
Don, I can see why the guy filed it. Sam and his buddies need to be stopped from continuing to rob the residents they are supposed to be protecting. I guess this guy thought it was going to take a lawsuit to get justice. How do you feel about Sam illegally over charging us since 2010?
Donna Fleming December 18, 2013 at 09:10 AM
Don...re you question above (Richard already showed you what heavy water users pay in other cities and guess what, SJC wasn't the highest. You say that's skewed, prove it.) We don't have to prove it again. A court and a judge ruled the billing is illegal. Are you guys brain dead? A judge ruled for the rate payers. Sam is appealing because he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. SJC water dept is going to have to cough up 3 years of back "over billing" for all the residents billed since 2010.
Gus Gunderson December 18, 2013 at 01:11 PM
If you do a little research on the law firm, two of the attorneys are present or past Presidents of the Orange County Bar Association. From everything I can read on them, they are quite the prestigious law firm. You can call them Newport Beach class action attorneys if you like. If they are right, does it really matter where they are from ?
Donna Fleming December 18, 2013 at 02:53 PM
James Curwood...If the City Council does not "run" the water department, then why does the city council participate in a vote to raise water rates over and over again? Why does the city council participate in ugly politics like the mailers that went out to the whole community because of the recall? I chose to move to San Juan Capistrano in 1999. Bought a home. I have always loved this town. But, look at the stewardship of our community. Maybe you are one of the good ole boys who like Sam. Well, fine. Be friends. But, I want new stewardship in our city council. People who care about "our town" not their pocket. During this recession businesses are failing and being replaced with empty buildings and dollar stores.
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 03:24 PM
James, how do you feel about the judge's ruling that the city's billing rate for water has been illegal since 2010. Sam and the two councilmen can fix that but refuse to; in fact, they are appealing the judge's ruling with OUR tax money. Why would Sam do that? What's behind the collection of high water bills? What's Sam been doing with the money the city is collecting? Trying to show SJC is solvent when it might not be? James, don't tell me Sam has nothing to do do with the water issues. You're stupid, lying, or one of Sam's lobbyists who's trying to distract from the truth. I'd say all three. By the way, no one's "po-poing" on SJC. We're "po-poing" on Sam and his outlaws.
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 03:26 PM
www.RecallSam.com
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Didn't call anyone a name, James. I happen to think Sam, who has cost this city and the residents millions of dollars, and his rich development buddies are the "worst scourge to ever plague this town". We'll have to agree to disagree and see how the courts handle this.
Donna Fleming December 18, 2013 at 05:52 PM
James....That remark...truck move..? was unkind. Sunshine is angry over the city government tactics. It is our right as Americans to yell, shout, and call attention to actions that break the US Consititution, and to those who would manipulate the city coffers to their own purposes. A scourge, thank God for people willing to speak out. When we stop shouting the war is lost. And, you can stop the BEE comments we get it, you do not like Clint. One of these days the DA is going to take control of the city council and you will all be wondering how that happened? As they are in the city of Bell.
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Am I blind, or did "James Curwood" retreat and delete his comments? Hmmm
rachel o December 18, 2013 at 09:22 PM
James actually Donna's way is the only way as it is the legal way. Any other way would be illegal. That is where the city got itself in trouble with the water rates.
rachel o December 18, 2013 at 09:29 PM
Sunshine, James did delete several of his posts. I think when he went back and read them, he realized it would not get him anymore customers in his bicycle shop and offering his truck to move people out of town, may not be exactly the conversation the Fiesta Association had in mind when the named him the Grand Marshall.
rachel o December 18, 2013 at 09:30 PM
It is interesting to note that for all of Jim Curwoods pissing and moaning, he was the first one to call the news organizations when his bicycle chop received a code enforcement citation.
Sunshine December 18, 2013 at 10:44 PM
I don't believe I'll be stepping foot in his bicycle shop. He says he doesn't know Clint, but I bet he knows Sam. James should remember that when one lays down with dogs, they come up with fleas. (That's not meant to demean dogs, I love them!).
Donna Fleming December 18, 2013 at 11:59 PM
Oops... I did not connect the name. But, James has a right to his opinion too. I wondered where those posts went to? And, I have bought 5 bikes from him in the last 10 years. I guess he is one of the good ole boys. I am sure he knows Sam.
Sunshine December 19, 2013 at 01:11 AM
I looked at other posts made by James Curwood on other articles. Based on his rude comments, I would not buy a bike from his store. He has the right to his opinion and I have the right to not spend my money in his store.
Christie December 22, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Regionalizing" the Ground Water Recovery Plant a Solution to an Expensive Problem By Roy L. Byrnes, MD, San Juan Capistrano City Councilmember Our “water troubles” began about ten years ago when the City made the fateful choice to move away from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which had been our traditional supplier of water for nearly 100 years. Unfortunately, the City decided that we should obtain about 75% of our water by pumping the subterranean aquifer from the San Juan basin using the local Ground Water Recovery Plant (GWRP). That was a bad decision and we've been paying a very high price for it ever since. Indeed, over the past 10 years, we've learned that the GWRP is more expensive and less reliable than MWD water. Looking to the future, the rising cost of electricity, plus the cost of 21 employees to run it, plus the maintenance and repairs, plus the expenses of installing recharge facilities, plus the construction of barriers to protect from ocean water intrusion - all these factors mean that the future operational costs of the GWRP will continue to outpace even the expected increase in MWD water costs. What to do? Last month Councilman Sam Allevato suggested that the City should determine the costs and consequences of shuttering the “water factory” and stopping (defaulting on) the bond payments. Upon suggestion of the City Attorney, he withdrew his suggestion. Today I offer a better solution. This is a return to the original concept when the San Juan Basin Authority was formed decades ago. This approach involves reducing operational expenses by spreading costs of operation over a larger number of customers; a program of “regionalization” which gets the City of San Juan Capistrano out of the water business without financial injury. At the present time the City has a goal of producing about 75% of its water from the GWRP and 24% from the less expensive MWD source. This places a heavy financial burden on the 11,000 San Juan customers. In time this will become unbearable as the increased costs of electricity, staff and measures to protect against ocean water intrusion are added on. I suggest we start by removing the operation of the GWRP (water plant) from the City of San Juan and transferring it to the San Juan Basin Authority (the actual owners of the facility) so that the GWRP can supply water to all four of the Basin Authority participants, not just San Juan. That means that the financial burden of the GWRP would be supported by a vastly increased number of customers – an estimated 75,000. Thus each customer will pay far less to support the operation of the plant. San Juan would reverse its pattern and acquire about 85-90% of its water from the less expensive MWD source and only a small 5 -10% from the GWRP. San Juan's water costs drop! There could be three net results of this change: 1. The role of the GWRP is switched – no longer is it the primary water source for the City of San Juan. Instead, the GWRP becomes an auxiliary-backup-emergency water source for a much larger group of customers from all of the San Juan Basin participants – as originally intended. 2. Since the GWRP is no longer their direct responsibility, the San Juan ratepayers are relieved of an insufferable financial burden. The City is “out of the water business” as the San Juan Basin Authority takes over. San Juan finances improve hugely! 3. The costs of leasing the GWRP would be assumed by all the San Juan Basin Authority members. This would supply the money to meet bond payments. There is no interruption in the payment of money to bondholders and no bankruptcy. This illustration is offered to show that reasonable alternatives do exist.
Donna Fleming December 23, 2013 at 03:24 AM
I cannot say that I totally understand this suggestion for regionaliztion of our Ground water wells. It may well be the answer, but it feels like we are giving back the panama canal. I do think the city should get out of the water business. A private company to maintain and work the wells, employ people and bill the city for ground water supplied to green belts seems doable. But, only if the water is not contaminated by BTE.

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